A beloved member of the Kew Gardens Hills community succumbed to kidney failure on Tuesday, April 24, leaving behind memories of the chesed that she had done throughout her life that was paid forward by countless individuals. Meredith Farrell, 40, died at the hospital in Pittsburgh where she received a pair of donated lungs after waiting years for a transplant, living as a patient in proximity to the only hospital willing to make the procedure. “She was a life force that could light up a room,” said Aliza Berenholz Peled, a longtime friend. “She loved to give and make people happy.”
The North Woodmere native settled in Queens as a student at Queens College, where she majored in art therapy, and joined Kehilas Ishei Yisrael, a shul comprised largely of young singles and couples. “What I remember most about Meredith Robin Farrell is her always upbeat and bright attitude towards life,” wrote Avi From. “Through it all, she was always making people smile, especially on Purim with her out-of-the-box themes.” Avi From made the Facebook post under the hashtag #ForgetMeNotFriday, a day after many of her other friends posted their memories under #ThankfulThursday.
Such online campaigns defined the last six years of her life as her health deteriorated and she fought back with positive stories, humor, and inspiration. A gifted artist, she applied her talent not only to the Purim costumes and wedding shticks but in her line of work as a child life specialist at Elmhurst Hospital Center. “One of the warmest people you’ll meet. She was always able to get it done and was personally involved,” said Yehoshua Solomon, who was also active in planning many Ishei Yisrael events. “Even in Pittsburgh, she put everybody else before herself.”
Andrea Steiner was involved in Queens College Hillel together with Farrell, leading to their friendship. “She was an amazing person, very energetic, driven, motivated. At Jewish communal events, I watched her work the room; she started conversations with anyone.” Alongside her art, Meredith sang in a women’s a cappella group and acted in the college’s rendition of the play Grease. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Steiner.
Farrell was inspired to work with hospitalized children by her own experience as a patient at age 14. Lying in bed after having a tumor removed from behind her left eye, she kept calm through art. In October 2012, Farrell contracted pneumonia in both lungs, and adenovirus, an upper respiratory tract syndrome. Initially, she continued working, and then stayed in her home, relying on breathing tubes, while remaining active in community events. Her friend Tsippa Atkin made meals for her and shared her life’s ups and downs with her. “Sometimes, when I’d ask her how she was doing, she would respond, ‘I want to hear how you’re doing,” said Atkin.
In April 2014, Farrell relocated to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for her lungs and bone marrow transplants. Shortly before her relocation, she started the Friends of Meredith blog, where she shared updates on her medical condition, #ThankfulThursday posts, and impressions from her mother Sandi and brother Scott. “She wrote about things we don’t think about being thankful for,” said Steiner. Her mother relocated to Pittsburgh as well, to be close to Meredith. Her friends also took the trip to Pittsburgh, to give the sense of connection that cannot be felt online. Tsippa Atkin and her husband Jonathan visited her, this past Pesach, not knowing it would be their last time with her, in person.
On a personal level, there is a couple with four children that are the result of Farrell’s motivated actions. “She made sure that everybody was taken care of,” said Michali Lax. “My brother-in-law Moti Lax and his wife Orit met at a barbecue that Meredith had set up. Everybody knew that they were being set up, except the two of them.”
The barbecue took place nearly 16 years ago. “She apparently created several married couples,” said Moti Lax. “She stacked that barbecue with people we know and instructed them not to talk to us so that we would talk to each other.” He recalls Farrell as selfless and positive. “She instilled humor and laughter in bad situations. We are thankful to Hashem for having shared Meredith with us. Her legacy continues through the families that she created. She was a giver.”
By Sergey Kadinsky